As voting day for the special election in Ohio's 2nd Congressional District nears, I should finally mention this story that has been brewing on the blogs for a few weeks now: the formerly-long-shot candidacy of Gulf War II veteran Paul Hackett. Without a doubt, the best current source for frequent updates on the now-frenetic pace of the campaign is SwingStateProject. Ever since an internal Republican poll showed Hackett surging to within the margin of error, the excitement has continued to ratchet higher with each passing day. Following that last link, I should mention that MyDD was one of the first prominent blogs to bring the campaign into the limelight, noting the interesting dynamic: Ohio's 2nd district is about as solidly Republican as they come, with no D candidate earning more than 30% of the vote in 20 years.
What would it take for Democrats to break through in this very red area? First, a scandal-plagued state GOP, up to its neck in corruption charges surrounding Governor Taft and his staff in what has become known as "Coingate." Next, a candidate in the mold of progressive darling Howard Dean--brash talking, strong-willed, and fervently anti-war--but with credibility Dean could never hope to gain on the issue: that which you get by opposing the war and then volunteering to fight in it anyway. Third, the aforementioned blogosphere buzz, which created both MSM coverage of his candidacy (video link) and some serious netroots contributions (which stand at nearly $400,000 from this source alone as of tonight).
Finally most recently, the whiff of scandal has begun to coalesce around Hackett's opponent, faux farm girl Jean Schmidt. First it was merely that she didn't appear to have the kind of background she claimed, then it spread to her campaign manager who tried desperately to disavow HIS apparent background as a family values bondage and submission lover. And now tonight, the local networks are running with the story of Schmidt's denials that she even knew who Coingate-tainted Tom Noe was, which just happen to be completely contradicted by public record.
It remains to be seen what will happen Tuesday. For all the hubbub, OH-2 is still solidly Republican, and the Cincy Enquirer went ahead and gave Schmidt the endorsement. Other smaller papers have gone for Hackett, but none with the Enquirer's readership and influence. But depending on how tightly the stink of Coingate now adheres to Schmidt in the face of her denials, and how well Hackett's Libertarian Democrat positioning will turn out the vote in what should likely be a low-turnout election, this could be a bellwether political event for the 2006 electoral season. Another Iraq veteran is running in PA-8, for instance. Keep an eye on this story the next two days...